Hockey

Luongo goes for 3rd shutout in a row

Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo will shoot for his third consecutive shutout when Vancouver hosts the Minnesota Wild on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).

Roberto Luongo is in a groove.

The Vancouver Canucks goalie has been unbeatable of late, posing back-to-back shutouts — against Nashville on Tuesday and Phoenix on Thursday — as he stopped 52 shots.

Luongo will try to make it three in a row when the Canucks host the Minnesota Wild on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).

The Canucks netminder leads the league with four shutouts this season and hasn't allowed a goal since 18:52 of the second period in last Sunday's 3-2 loss to Detroit.

He's been great between the pipes, but Luongo credits his defence for helping him out.

"I felt pretty good, but guys are doing a great [job] in front of me, too," said Luongo, who has 42 career shutouts. "When we help each other out like that on the ice, we get good results."

Luongo enters Saturday's game riding a shutout streak of 138 minutes 34 seconds. To have any chance of breaking the club record (210 minutes 34 seconds) that he set over a five-game span from Nov. 23 to Dec. 2, Luongo will have to blank a Minnesota team that hasn't been shut out since a 3-0 loss at Chicago on Feb. 20, a string of 33 regular-season games.

What's more, Luongo hasn't posted a shutout in 20 career games against the Wild (8-3-1) since he blanked them in his first career start against the team, during the 2000-01 season.

And if recent history is any indication, the Canucks can expect a tough time from the Wild on Saturday.

The Wild won last season's series (5-2-1) between the Northwest Division rivals. Luongo lost five of his seven starts in the series, while Minnesota's Nicklas Backstrom went 5-0-1 with a 2.02 goals-against average and a shutout.

Backstrom has been sensational this season, boasting a 8-2-1 record with a 2.21 GAA in 11 starts.

On the offensive end, captain Mikko Koivu leads the way for Minnesota with 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in 12 games. His best effort came on Oct. 16, when he registered a five-point night (including a franchise record-tying four assists) in a 6-2 win over the Florida Panthers.

Hockey pundits all agree — Koivu is having a breakout season.

But to hear Koivu tell it, he's looked pretty average, his brilliant early-season form propped up by the fact that the Wild currently sit in first place in the Northwest Division and third overall in the Western Conference.

"When the team is winning and people look at out our point total, it makes you look pretty good even when you haven't been your best. Things are going well for the team, and for me I guess, but it's only 12 games in and there's a lot of work to do," Koivu told CBCSports.ca.

With files from the Associated Press

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